Aug 25, 2023, Stamford (CT) Advocate: Stamford school board OKs outsourcing special education classes in move teacher union calls an insult https://www.stamfordadvocate.com/local/article/stamford-special-education-teachers-hubbard-autism-18324848.php
A proposal to bring in private special education staff to teach two classes in Stamford schools left the teacher union president "insulted," "disgusted" and threatening to file a complaint against the district, but that had little impact on the Board of Education's approval Tuesday night.
After a brief discussion during a virtual meeting, all nine members of the Board of Education voted in favor of entering an agreement with Hubbard Day School that would allow the special education provider to teach two classes of students with autism, one at Springdale Elementary School and another at Northeast Elementary School.
The contract is for one year and the district has the option of terminating it at any time. It comes with a price tag of $850,000 that will be taken out of the special education operating budget in order to pay for the outsourced teachers and para-educators who will teach those classes, which will cater to 16 total students, or eight in each classroom.
The partnership is seen by district leaders and officials as a creative way to partly fill multiple special education openings amid an ongoing teacher shortage. Providing teachers to the two classrooms would prevent the district from having to find out-of-district options for those students, which is always an expensive proposition, officials said.
Also Tuesday night, members approved a resolution to spend roughly $6,350,000 on out-of-district special education costs for 41 students. Because the district is tasked with educating all children, it must find and pay for an appropriate alternative if it cannot provide services to certain students, such as those with severe physical disabilities.
Of those 41 students, 13 will go to Hubbard Day School, 68 Southfield Ave., at a total cost of roughly $2,013,000, or about $154,800 per student.
In comparison, the district will pay $53,125 per student for Hubbard Day to provide their services inside of Stamford schools.
According to district data, there were 47 open vacancies among special education teachers this summer. The district has filled 36 of those since then, leaving 11 openings with only one week left before the start of school.
"This is a creative, urgent solution to address the staffing needs for those students with autism that have severe disabilities," said Associate Superintendent for Student Support Michael Fernandes during a meeting of the Fiscal Committee of the Board of Education on Aug. 15.
But to executive members of the Stamford Education Association teachers union, the Hubbard Day agreement was met with surprise and disappointment.
On Wednesday morning, John Corcoran, president of the SEA, accused the district of "union busting" by filling a potential union job with an outside contractor. He said the union would file an unfair labor practice complaint against the district….
However, when the MOA was before the Board of Education on Aug. 1, Board members had a roughly half hour discussion on the topic behind closed doors before the meeting started and the board tabled the agreement for a future date during the meeting….
Kathleen Steinberg, spokesperson for the district, wrote in an emailed response that the candidate for Northeast was offered the APPLES position because she was state-certified in both preschool and elementary school. …
"Stamford Public Schools is committed to acting in the best interests of its students, which in this case meant contracting with an outside provider to place one state certified special educator in-district on a temporary basis to teach students with autism spectrum disorder," she wrote. "To call such an arrangement — which was unanimously approved by the (Board of Education) — 'union busting' is absurd."
The Hubbard Day staff that will be at Springdale and Northeast is comprised of one Connecticut certified special education teacher and one board certified behavior analyst, which will switch between classrooms so that students are taught half of the day by a teacher and supervised the other half of the day by the analyst, according to Steinberg.
Two registered behavior technicians, split across the two classes, will help with instruction and support, while each classroom will also have two para-educators each. Additionally, an administrator from Hubbard Day will oversee the two classes.
Jonathan Trichter, founder of Hubbard Day School, said Stamford schools first reached out to him on July 25 to discuss a possible partnership…..